Stan & Ollie: An unconventional biopic with a whole lot of heart

The film is about two best friends and creative forces, who are unaware that they are at the end of their lives, and how that magic arrives.
by Alan Mehanna English

8 February 2019 | 12:48

Source: by Annahar

  • by Alan Mehanna
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 8 February 2019 | 12:48

Unlike most biopics, STAN & OLLIE focuses on one aspect of their lives and expands on the men behind the legends, allowing audiences to see humanity in a moment.

BEIRUT: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are widely regarded as the greatest comedy partnership in movie history: making over 107 films, and defining the notion of the double act with infectious chemistry and hilarious routines that seemed effortless but were honed down to the finest detail.

It’s really quite puzzling why it took Hollywood so long to honor the legendary duo, but STAN & OLLIE was definitely worth the wait.

Unlike most biopics, STAN & OLLIE focuses on one aspect of their lives and expands on the men behind the legends, allowing audiences to see humanity in a moment.

The film is about two best friends and creative forces, who are unaware that they are at the end of their lives, and how that magic arrives.

It is, in fact, a love story between these two friends.

The film delves deep into who these men were behind the camera, suggesting that, while in the movies the pair were inseparable, off-screen they were friendly but just work colleagues.

By taking this path, screenwriter Jeff Pope and director Jon S. Baird, were able to create something that new and old audiences can enjoy.

Pope’s script is peppered with telling, touching details about the central relationship — Laurel kept writing sketches for the pair seven years after they had retired - and the screenplay weaves in many of the duo’s famous routines in a way that felt natural.

Director Jon S. Baird’s cinematic enthusiasm is present from the get-go.

The film opens with a six-minute tracking shot that follows Stan and Ollie from their dressing room across a Hollywood studio lot, onto set and into an argument with studio boss Hal Roach.

Opening the film in such a way sets the tone for the entire film, which unfolds beautifully, from start to finish - almost like a dream.

STAN & OLLIE would not be as successful as it is if it weren’t for the actors playing the titular duo.

Steve Coogan and John C. Reily not only deliver some of their best performances, but so perfectly disappear into the comedic pair that the audience ultimately forgets that they’re watching Coogan and Reily.

Every tick, every gesture, word, and breath was made with elaborate attention.

Yet, with all the power that Stan and Ollie had, the true highlight came from the two most unlikely characters, the women standing by the two men.

STAN & OLLIE’s conception of Lucille Hardy and Ida Laurel playfully nods to the notion of nagging wives whilst simultaneously painting a much more rounded portrayal of two very different women who were the heart for their partners amid the ups and downs of show business.

These women were strong, intelligent and forthright and we are left in no doubt that these iconic men absolutely needed the women they had standing behind them.

Jeff Pope’s screenplay shows the audience enough to understand that Lucille and Ida have gone on a journey for a long time with their husbands and they have their own quirks and energy together – they are, quite literally, their own double act.

STAN & Ollie also highlights how Hollywood has always been about draining and capitalizing on its successes, almost to the point of breaking human relationships.

At its heart, the film has a bright innocence about it, and that innocence is the reason STAN & OLLIE, a film about legends from the golden age of Hollywood, is a film for right now.

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